The debrief on all things doula, from a real one

Tori Bowman Johnson

Tori Bowman Johnson

Tori, a freelance writer, has worked in production, talent management & branding since her agency role at Vivien’s Model Management in Melbourne in 2011. Tori has recently launched, The First Word; a conversational podcast for women, particularly those who juggle young children & paid work. Tori is also a very proud mum of two little boys.
Updated on Mar 22, 2024 · 4 mins read
The debrief on all things doula, from a real one

The 22nd of March signifies World Doula Day, a date that empowers doulas to support women and improve their physical and emotional well-being in the birth and postpartum period.

But if you’ve ever wondered, “What does a doula even do?”, or “Do I need one?”, you’re not alone.

This excerpt from Tori Bowman’s book “BEFORE” interviews postpartum doula Tiffany Smith-Shiels on all the doula questions you’ve always wondered, but never known how to ask.


What is a doula and where did the concept originate from?

The word “doula” comes from ancient Greek, meaning “a woman who serves” or “woman servant”. In regards to a postpartum doula, I like to refer to it as mothering the mother.

Today, “doula” refers to a professional trained to provide emotional, physical, and informational support to women throughout their pregnancy, birth, and the early postpartum period.

A postpartum doula is employed to guide and support the birthing person of a newborn baby. 

What is a complete myth about doulas that is far from true?

That we are somewhat medically trained, which we are not. That we are here to be the role of the partner…we are not. We are EXTRA support for birthing person. 

Why would one opt for a doula?

Because the fourth trimester is totally underrated on how much support is needed and if you are aware of this then investing in postpartum care would be an absolute priority. I don’t think in the history of birthing a woman has ever said that they had too much postpartum support! 

When does the doula 'enter and exit" in terms of the pregnancy, birth, and postpartum timeline?

For postpartum, the window can be from day one post-birth to 2 months on average BUT postpartum is forever. So I am there to serve for as long as any individual needs.

Is a doula a qualified medical professional?

No we are not. 

What training does a doula typically have?

Depending on the level/type of doula it can range from a 3-month online course to years of training. 

How much does a doula usually cost?

Again, depending on offerings and packages. It can range from on average one visit on online consultation of $200 to $5000 packages.

"I would love a doula however my partner thinks it would be invasive during such an intimate family time." What would you say to this?

Totally understandable. Coming into a home at SUCH a raw, intimate, and vulnerable time I can see why a partner could say this. I feel such honour to be entering your home at this time, it’s not something I take lightly. However, I navigate my visits to be as invisible as possible. Also, I’m not a guest. I am a supportive staff member in the postpartum window. Again, when has a birthing person ever said that they received too much support? If mum feels that a postpartum doula is going to nourish, hold, and support her then partner hopefully hears and lets us in! 

What are some things no one knows about doulas?

That doulas have been around since the beginning of time, however, I’m constantly explaining what I do as a vocation because people feel like it’s a new role. Not that I mind. The more people know the better!

Why have you chosen to become a doula?

For a number of reasons. I was held and supported so wonderfully when I experienced pregnancy loss – I’ll never forget it. So I wanted to offer this service to all spectrums of postpartum. Partly due to my love and obsession with all things women-centered care, but also because I feel in the modern world we have lost the village. I hope that in my visits, I bring a one-woman village feel. 

Your advice to all expecting mums?

Organise or get a friend/relative/postpartum doula to organise you a meal train!

I have so much respect for the role of a doula. Everything that comes with growing & birthing a baby, plus nurturing that baby and your body is quite a lot to take on. The days can feel heavy as the magnitude of needs tugs on your arms, your boobs, your tired eyes, your hands, and your heart. A doula offers empathetic, support. A doula can feed you, tend to your aching body, and hold your darling child as you take the time to rest, recover, or simply make some Vegemite toast before diving into the next series of a trashy soap. 

Wrapping it up

Even if you don’t think you’re a “doula” person .. do some reading first. They do not replace the medical tie to your pregnancy, they simply offer a new layer to life. And my word, that layer is delicious! 

BEFORE by Tori Bowman sets off to explore the pregnancy terrain. A cast of brilliant professionals in the pre and postnatal space join the pages, as well as a collection of mothers who have written letters to their pregnant selves offering true understanding and light. Women carrying twins! Women in same-sex relationships! Stepmums carrying their first little wonder, and women who become spectacular mothers after suffering previous loss, long hauls with fertility, IVF, and stillbirth. This book is a palmful of love & solace for every woman who reads.

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